No Justice for Hyunsu
On July 15, 2016, I was present at Montgomery County Circuit Court when Brian Patrick O’Callaghan was sentenced for 1st degree child abuse resulting in death. Following a speech that claimed to give voice to Brian and Jennifer O’Callaghan’s adopted son Kim Hyunsu, known also as Madoc Hyunsu O’Callaghan, Judge John W. Debelius III rendered a sentence that will ultimately make it possible for Brian O’Callaghan to be out of prison in under five years. The details: Judge Debelius rendered a sentence of 20 years following guidelines that recommend between 12 and 20, but immediately said O’Callaghan would be required to serve only 12 of the 20 less 885 days for time already served, and would be eligible for parole (3 years of which must be supervised) after serving half of the remaining sentence.
It has been a couple of weeks since the sentencing hearing and I have had time to reflect on what I saw. I keep coming back to the same conclusion: Something just doesn’t sit right with the way this hearing proceeded.
There were a significant number of attendees: the press was there, along with Brian O’Callaghan’s wife Jennifer (who this time presented as distraught, face down and shielded by a group of friends from those around her – very different from the last hearing I attended, at which I saw her laughing and joking with the defense team outside the courtroom.) There appeared to be other O’Callaghan family members as well. On the prosecution side were the group of adoptees who have been working to memorialize Hyunsu. Interestingly, I saw a Korean man speaking with the NSA attorney at one point; rumor has since indicated that he was a representative of Holt Korea, although I did not speak with him and cannot confirm.
The defense team of Steven McCool and Julia Fisher brought multiple expert witnesses, including a long-time friend of Brian O’Callaghan (Abraham Max Denmark), three previous colleagues whose last names were not given in court (Danny F., who worked with O’Callaghan at DoD on Wounded Warrior projects; Edward D., one of O’Callaghan’s DoD supervisors; and Luther A. with the NSA Religious Affairs Office) and Richard Restak, MD, neurologist, neuropsychiatrist, author and professor. Additionally, O’Callaghan’s defense team requested that an NSA attorney be allowed to object as desired, and this was allowed. I did not hear this attorney voice any objections, however.
Prosecutors Donna Fenton, Deputy Chief of the Maryland State’s Attorney’s Office, and Sherri Koch of the Special Victims Division, requested to call the forensic pathologist who conducted Hyunsu’s autopsy, Dr. Nicki Mourtzinos, D.O., but she did not appear, and the prosecution called no other expert witnesses. I do not know why.
The hearing focused on testimony from the defense’s expert witnesses, including Brian O’Callaghan’s exemplary work record. Several pointed out that they found it difficult to understand and reconcile the Brian they knew with the Brian who committed the crime. Dr. Richard Restak was on the stand the longest, providing detailed responses to over a dozen exhibits (including some of the 60 letters that had been sent to the court in support of Brian O’Callaghan).
The defense witness testimony led to a clear point: That Brian O’Callaghan had been a mentally healthy individual until active duty, developed serious mental illness after that and obtained poor treatment, including misdiagnosis and inappropriate medications.
Several other facts were made clear in the hearing: That Brian O’Callaghan had offered differing accounts of what happened to Hyunsu to different parties (Hyunsu had a history of falling and fell in the shower; O’Callaghan threw Hyunsu across a room after he failed to settle down for a nap); that he had not sought immediate medical treatment for Hyunsu in spite of what he had done; and that he had lied to Catholic Charities, the adoption agency through which they adopted Hyunsu. Although he was on multiple medications for mental conditions when his homestudy began, he did not divulge his condition and stopped his medications to pass the required drug test.
Steven McCool’s closing arguments for the defense focused on Brian O’Callaghan’s mental health, in particular PTSD, as a mitigating factor in determining his sentence. Donna Fenton spoke passionately for the prosecution about Hyunsu himself, the horrible injuries he sustained and his death. When Judge John Debelius spoke, he followed the prosecution’s lead. His judgment, however, did not follow suit.
At the end of the day, Brian O’Callaghan can be out of jail in under five years. Five years served for an self-admitted brutal crime that took the life of a defenseless child. There is still no #JusticeforHyunsu Kim.